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We have a WhatsApp support group for parents of bipolar children.  Please send us an e-mail with your cell phone number and we will happily add you to our group.

24 June 2013





It is time that we looked for positives to
over ride the negatives that we talk about so often in dealing with our
challenging children.  Raising children
is a difficult task whatever the situation and we need to set boundaries, teach
good morals and standards and there is no book on how to do it.

Parents without challenged children often
battle so our battle is definitely on a larger scale but we need to remember
that our children are precious gifts.  Depending
on your belief system, you may feel that they chose you for a reason or that
you were given them for a reason so lets celebrate the life of our children and
the happiness that they bring with them.

From Rose who has a BP son of 8

The first thing
that comes to mind is how talented my son and all our kids are.  Whatever it may be - dancing, acting,
painting, writing or playing musical instruments and singing, they are all
blessed with these great talents.  This creative talent is also his outlet
and I’m sure that many other parents will agree.

Further, there
is also the fact that they are all very intelligent and can manage very well at
school in the right environment and excel. 
But most of all,
I admire the fighting spirit that he shows.  Bouncing back from really bad
days, always getting up – holding his head high and “fighting” the mountain of
life, that is a mere molehill to a ‘normal ‘person.’

I salute our
kid’s fighting spirit!

From Lavender, mom of BP
daughter aged 7

This little girl
makes me so proud.  She has a wonderful
sense of humour, is affectionate most of the time and showers me with hugs and
kisses when she’s feeling good and alright.

She loves music,
is a very talented dancer taking classes in Ballet, Modern Dance and Tap Dance
and recently opened her Grade 2 school fashion show with a solo Tap Dance.  She was awarded for musicality and lives to
dance.  When music is playing, she is
rocking in time or dancing – any excuse to use her talent and added to that,
she’s an actress too and manages to remember the words of all the movies she
loves and of the songs she likes to sing.

Visiting Granny
is special – they put on classical music, sometimes ballets, other times
musicals and they dance and have fun.

This little girl
is loved by her teachers, works very well at school and this term came first in
her class.  The fact that she can control
her moods at school is phenomenal and although moody and angry when at home, I
have to commend her on her ability to remain focussed and appear happy at

There is so much
to be grateful for and although these children are dealing with a huge
challenge and are different, I have told my little girl that she is different
in a good way and that with determination and perseverance, that she can live
her life to the full and achieve anything that she sets her mind to – she wants
to be a professional ballerina one day!

Lastly, we have input from
Arum Lily whose BP / BPD daughter is almost 15

I wish I could
also add to the talents above, because I would dearly love my daughter to be
talented in music, dance and art- but alas- this is not so. However, she shows
a great talent and interest with anything to do with hair, fashion, clothing,
nails, make-up and shoes, bikini’s and handbags!! Her latest is jewellery and
how to put it together. Although it drives me crazy that she will change her
outfits and make-up, ten times a day, she really has a flair for putting
herself, and others “together” This, I think will be where the best opportunity
for her future lies, and we will most certainly allow her to develop this gift
to its full potential.

An amazing thing
about my daughter is her incredible ability of perception. She sees people and
her surrounds in a very interesting way, and comes up with analogies to explain
situations in a manner that blows me away! If a couple are far from dating, but
falling in love, she will see it and tell me- if someone is heading for a
breakup, she will see it and tell me!! 
Uncanny insight that so far has proven to be 100% correct.

Every now and
again my little girl will have a chat with me, telling me how much she loves
me, and acknowledging that she does so much harm and hurts me a great deal, but
she appreciates that I don’t abandon her, and always love her regardless of her
behaviour and disorder. She tells me that if she was in my situation, having to
deal with HER, she would run away. This makes her so much more precious to me.

Little Lily is
not the best in the kitchen, but now and again she will surprise me with a
lunch, or a coffee (not to mention that half the coffee is on the floor, and
lunch is all stuck together and under or over cooked -usually a pasta), but knowing
that she is intrinsically the laziest person I know, makes it very special that
she has gone to the effort to do something sweet for me.

At the moment
she is trying very hard to learn “mindfulness” and I salute her efforts. She
has never cared much about what comes out her mouth- if it comes into her
brain- she spurts it out- no matter who gets hurt in the process. She has never
managed to “filter” this, and now I see her trying very hard, and as soon as
she realises she has messed up- she apologises.

We are so
thankful for small daily doses of progress. Our kids suffer with their
disorder, because even though they battle to have friends and maintain
relationships- they don’t really understand why. Let us give thanks for the
special times we have with them- even at times when manic behaviour results in
lots of laughs and a bit of fun!!

If you’d like to
comment on this article, please feel free to do so – we love hearing opinions
and stories from others.


How to Help a Loved One with a Mental Illness

I Don't Have a Mental Illness. Go Away!


When a loved one has a psychiatric disorder, it’s a challenge for the whole family: parents, siblings, friends and relatives. The willingness to come to come together as a unit, accept the diagnosis, look for help, go beyond criticism, blame and judgement will not guarantee recovery, but it makes it far more likely. Denial and disapproval will only worsen the situation.

Family support (and by family, I mean a biological family or a chosen one) is vital to recovery. The support helps minimize the indignities and damage mental illness can inflict on an individual that would otherwise take place had the support not been there in the first place. It also can save a loved one’s life. As a mental health worker I saw the consequences and challenges that resulted when parents, relatives and friends refused to accept the illness or worse ostracised the individual who was struggling.

When I was first diagnosed with bipolar I disorder and psychosis, my parents’ acceptance, love and boundary setting was pivotal. Even when I lacked the ability to accept my mood disorder, I knew in the back of my mind, my parents were a ‘soft place to fall’. When I did eventually recognize I needed help, I knew I could turn to them. And I did. Do not think your kindness falls on deaf ears – our soul or our subconscious or whatever name you’d like to give it, registers far more than we realize.Tips for supporting a loved one with a psychiatric illness: 1. Inform yourself as much as possible about the illness being faced. Get the truth not the myths. Local mental health associations are terrific resources to help you understand the illness and the route recovery often takes. It’s also an ideal place to find others going through or who have gone through similar experiences. An excellent reading resource is “I Am Not Sick. I Don’t Need Help!” by Dr. Xavier Amador. His book gives practical suggestions about how to help someone with mental illness who doesn’t believe they’re sick. Understanding lack of insight (or more accurately: ‘anosognosia’) as a symptom of psychiatric disease and appreciating the process from denial to acceptance and then wellness is essential.
 2. Start dialogues, not debates. If your family member doesn’t agree she or he has an illness, talk about it; find out why. Listen without trying to change them or their mind. Forget the power struggle. Focus on building trust and rapport.
 3. However, in cases where a loved one is in acute psychiatric distress (experiencing psychosis or feeling suicidal for instance), getting him or her into the hospital is the wisest and best choice. I speak from experience, involuntary commitment saved my life. For more on this subject, read the post ‘Should Restraints in Psychiatric Care Be Illegal'?
 4. Instead of guessing what helps: ask. Even if your family member has difficulty telling you what would be helpful, asking how you could support, demonstrates you don’t think you know best (even if you believe you do). It gives room for empowerment and self-awareness to take root. See if the requests are doable. Be honest with what you can take on. Once the discussion begins, keep it going. People’s needs shift with the path of the illness.
 5. Seek counseling for yourself. The burden of dealing with a chronic and severe illness within a family is an enormous stress and the feelings that arise, conflicting. When my mother was ill with the swings of severe depression, mania, and anxiety, I was worried as well as angry. I needed someone outside the family to freely discuss my frustrations and hurt without the fear of upsetting her. A qualified therapist offers clarity, objectivity, solutions not previously seen and a place to safely deal with the emotions rising from such difficult circumstances. The healthier you are, the better equipped you become to handle demanding situations.Check with your company or union to see if they have an employee assistance program that includes counseling. Spouses are often eligible too. If you don’t have access to an EAP, with some digging you can find affordable counseling. If you have a family doctor, ask him or her. Local health teams, community mental health centers, family services agencies, churches, even local universities offer supervised practices, and some therapists have sliding fee scales. If you can’t find anything reasonably priced, keep looking and ask others. If we create the demand, there will be a supply. Just ensure those offering services at reduced rates still have the appropriate credentials and experience. If you are going to put yourself in the care of someone, make sure that someone is qualified.
 6. Check out support groups for family members of those experiencing mental illness. The resources listed below as well as community mental health teams, hospitals and your family doctor will either offer good programs or know of some. Check your local area for specific groups. Other important reminders for family members and loved ones:• Keep yourself well and pace yourself. Over-extending yourself will only cause further problems in the long run.• Avoid falling into the role of ‘fixer’ and ‘savior’. No matter how much you love someone, it cannot save them.• Offering objectivity, compassion and acceptance is valuable beyond measure.• Know that even if your actions and love may seem to have little impact– they are making a difference. (Trust me.)• Have realistic expectations. The recovery process is not a straight line nor is it one that happens quickly. It bears repeating: your love, acceptance and patience are more effective than you will ever realize. My parents likely will never know how important, how life saving and life changing their support was for me, especially when I was in full resistance mode. So although you may feel helpless and see little progress at times, without those three elements– any other kind of help is empty. It does get better. And please remember, treat yourself with kindness and find adequate support for yourself. A challenge like this is not easy – for anyone.

With kind permission from:

 © 2012 Victoria Maxwell


My contact details are changing soon! I am consulting in Glenwood and focussing on the Educational, Emotional and Developmental needs of children, teens and adults. I am able to work directly with most medical aids. Please feel free to contact me if the need arises.



Anwen Cunningham-Scholtz

M Soc Sci (Ed. Psych.) UND

Educational Psychologist

Practice Number: 086 0000066737

12 Dartmouth Rd, Glenwood, 4001.

Phone: 0814625780 email:



My contact details have changed! I am consulting in Glenwood and focussing on the Educational, Emotional and Developmental needs of children, teens and adults. I am able to work directly with most medical aids. Please feel free to contact me if the need arises.




Bipolar Kids and Teens South Africa extends a heartfelt THANK YOU  to JETLINE DURBAN DTP and LIVE EYE
for their generous sponsorship of our business cards and Banner.
Together we CAN make a difference.


Hi there my name is Angie and I would like to talk about how teaching piano will help bipolar children.  Early in the 70's when I was a child growing up in Umhlanga Rocks, there was no literature and support groups like they have today. eg this amazing website.  I was a very misunderstood child and put extreme pressure on myself to achieve resulting in my becoming head girl of a top private school in Durban.  After I left school at university the disease started to surface and I was unable and fearful to achieve.  I was afraid and did not attempt to achieve anything apart from having two wonderful children.  What got me through some of my darkest times growing up was playing the piano.  It allowed me to express my deep inner creativity and I still turn to piano playing today.  I am an accomplished piano teacher and passionate about teaching children especially those with bipolar or anxiety because I know the tremendous creative talents that these kids have and how playing the piano helps.  I see it all the time with my students.  I love what I do, I am passionate about helping children or adults so if anyone is further interested contact  me on or 0761638998.





Thank you Elisa and Lee for this amazing website and the work you are doing


Grandpa (By Morag Liebenberg 2012)


Grandpa you want to know how to handle me

Well look at me and what do you see?

A sweet little girl with a beautiful smile

long blonde hair and easy to rile.


I’m creative and love to read and to sing,

dancing and showing off is my thing.

I paint and draw and with mom it’s such fun

I also love to play with my dog and to run.


I’m not naughty, spoilt, rude or belligerent,

I’m bright, active, interesting and intelligent.

The computer is easy to manage for me

I’m not afraid of technology.


I’m not wired the same way as you

My thoughts are mixed up

or race through my mind

I say things I don’t mean, please don’t mind.


I’m jeckyl and hyde

from one extreme to the other,

often many times during the day,

It’s really a bother.

I’m happy now and angry in a while

but suddenly something happens to bring back my smile


Try not to annoy me

Just let me be

I can’t do things in the time frame

you expect from me.


Don’t reprimand me in company,

it’s humiliating and makes me angry.

Talk and reason with me gently when we’re alone,

otherwise I react badly and want to go home.


Pull me up when I’m wrong

I’m really rather strong.

I understand what is right

but try as I might,

that little voice inside me

sometimes puts up such a fight.


I’m capable and bright,

Sometimes stay up into the night

I argue, I nag, I beg and I plead

being the centre of attention

is something I really need


So love me, hug me and hold me tight

And together we’ll get this relationship right.

Date: 2012/06/24 08:26:25 PM
Subject: Re: Son
Hi Lee and Elisa

Thanks again for all your care and concern, I think the worst part of this illness is that it does not seem tangible for example it is not like a person in a wheel chair, however sadly both are just as handicapped. Your site really got me thinking and of course sometimes it is great just to know that other people out there are experiencing the same things and at least you are not crazy although you feel it sometimes! I actually also am a firm believer that as a single parent you also need to reach out and get help and support in order to be able to help your child.

So far my son is not exhibiting any side obvious physical side effects in fact he was quite a lot happier and affectionate this weekend with no bad outbursts or rages, I really am praying for a miracle here. Thanks for giving me that perspective and for encouraging me by your own experiences.

I will let you know how it goes and hopefully will get some time to Skype I am a bit technologically challenged though.

Thanks again and I hope your children are doing well.
Sent from my iPad

Something of importance that should be noted, is that whenever your child is on any medication for a mood disorder or early onset bipolar disorder, it becomes imperative to have blood tests done on a regular basis to check out blood levels, liver function, sometimes kidney function as well as thyroid function.

Most of these medications can be free of damage to internal organs, but in some children it has been noted to have some affect. Just to be on the safe side, schedule blood tests at least every three to six months, and remind your doctor, or request that it be done.

Risperdal, just as a footnote, is known to cause weight gain. If it becomes out of control, refer to your doctor for assistance. Risperdal however, appears to be one of the best management drugs for early onset bipolar disorder, so the benefits have to be weighed against the unfortunate weight gain.



HEALTH24 news article


Parenting a bipolar child is challenging. A bipolar child is not a child that lacks discipline, but rather a child who does not react well to normal discipline, as you may find in the non bipolar child.

When a toddler throws tantrums, this is to be expected, as it's a normal phase in child development. But what happens when those tantrums don’t go away, but  grow stronger and more violent as the child ages? This is how it is for children with bipolar mood disorder.

Simple questions, such as, “What are we having for dinner,” can turn into a violent meltdown if not answered the way the child expects. Providing discipline and a sound structure for such a child is not for a timid parent. To be the parent of a bipolar child, you need to be firm, just and patient. Do not let your exhaustion allow you to give up on your determination to be firm and patient at the same time.

Tantrums in the bipolar child:

As with most parents, we find it much easier to give in when we are tired, but giving in to the bipolar child can result in increased manipulation and tantrums. The word NO seems to be a trigger for the bipolar child, and can set off an episode of rage or severe anger.

You are no longer dealing with a toddler, who will calm down from a tantrum after you have raised your voice or ignored him/her. A bipolar child can have a tantrum lasting for hours and hours and can increase into violence, threats of suicide, destruction of property, hurting themselves or siblings and parents.

Fortunately, there are some measures that parents of bipolar children can take to help cope with the child's behavior.

Establish Rules

Standard discipline methods including time outs, grounding, taking away privileges, earning privileges, or even spanking, often do not work with bipolar children. Nevertheless it is important to establish rules and abide by them.

As with any child, stability is important, but for a bipolar child stability is essential: bipolar children thrive on routine according to the American Journal of Psychiatry. However for a parent of a bipolar child, providing that stability requires creativity and flexibility.



Provide Written Rules

Create a set of rules and include your child in setting these rules. Write them down on a piece of paper, and if your child is old enough, all parents as well as children in the home, sign their agreement on the “House rules”

Then when the child breaks these rules, it is easier to enforce the discipline and remind your child that this is what had been agreed upon. If rules are questioned after they have been written down, set up a family time to discuss them and perhaps change them. Remind a child that you are the parent and you will listen to their concerns, but ultimately it is your role and job to make the final decision.

Expect a bipolar child to occasionally throw a tantrum after hearing no. It is not the time to enforce discipline when a child is in the middle of a tantrum or rage. During a tantrum help him/her to get out of it. Hold the child tightly, and if necessary, restrain him/her. Make sure the child is safe and in no danger of hurting themselves. Speak quietly and gently, reassure the child. Suggest alternative ways of displaying their anger, like bashing a pillow on the bed, or screming into the pillow.

Once your child has calmed down, explain the rules that you had established on paper and enforce them with kindness, patience and love. This sounds simple, but in fact is extremely difficult. Specially when the parent themselves could be anxious after the rage/tantrum.

Being the parent of a bipolar child is probably the most difficult job you will ever have. Daily challenges present themselves in many different ways, and we know that parents too, are not perfect. There is no single solution to dealing with a bipolar child during an episode, and most times, we have to play it by ear. The parent needs to be flexible, calm and patient. Whatever method you use today, may not work tomorrow. Keep trying to see what works for you and your child.

In order for the bipolar child’s parent to maintain patience and tranquility, it is imperative to have support, time out and a bit of “looking after you” Encourage the help of your spouse, family and close friends. You are not an island, and your health could suffer very seriously in the process of trying to manage this by yourself. Accept help! Never a bad idea to seek therapy for yourself, to get your “ducks in a row”

On a last note of advice, the bipolar child’s parents must avoid, at all costs, contradicting the other parent when they have given the child an instruction or attempts to discipline the child. If you are not in agreement with the other parent, find a quiet time later to discuss the matter privately. One of the strongest skills the bipolar child develops, is the ability to manipulate, and they will use every opportunity to play mother up against father and vice versa. Do not allow this. Take time out as husband and wife/partners and friends, to enjoy each other’s company without the bipolar child.

Taken from website International Bipolar Foundation
see link to page on our "links" page 05 June 2012

Children & Adolescents

Both children and adolescents can develop bipolar disorder. It is more likely to affect the children of parents who have the illness. Unlike many adults with bipolar disorder, whose episodes tend to be more clearly defined, children and young adolescents with the illness often experience very fast mood swings between depression and mania many times within a day.(5) Children with mania are more likely to be irritable and prone to destructive tantrums than to be overly happy and elated. Mixed symptoms also are common in youths with bipolar disorder. Older adolescents who develop the illness may have more classic, adult-type episodes and symptoms.

Bipolar disorder in children and adolescents can be hard to tell apart from other problems that may occur in these age groups. For example, while irritability and aggressiveness can indicate bipolar disorder, they also can be symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, or other types of mental disorders more common among adults such as major depression or schizophrenia. Drug abuse also may lead to such symptoms.

For any illness, however, effective treatment depends on appropriate diagnosis. Children or adolescents with emotional and behavioral symptoms should be carefully evaluated by a mental health professional. Any child or adolescent who has suicidal feelings, talks about suicide, or attempts suicide should be taken seriously and should receive immediate help from a mental health specialist.

24 MAY2012

Connecting Kidz bipolar article







We are two ordinary moms who hail from Durban, and until we met we almost believed we were the only individuals on the planet having to each deal with a bipolar child.  When we met, we realised just how much our girls have in common and quickly realised that in reality, there have to be hundreds of thousands of parents in South Africa going through the exact same thing.  The fact that we met allowed us, for the first time, to have someone else in our quarter to just be there and to understand what the other is having to deal with.  One blatant factor that we have in common is the lack of understanding from family, friends, teachers, colleagues, business associates… the list goes on. So to have another person who can actually have an understanding of your life and its trials of living with a bipolar child has proven to be invaluable. ~

The general consensus from the public at large in South Africa is that the bipolar child does not exist. We unfortunately include many professionals who share this belief in our country.  Popular belief is that the parent needs good parenting skills to deal with this child who is, at the best of times, politically incorrect.  Not to mention that it took a number of years of reading endless books on parenting skills, and feeling a total failure as a parent, before reaching the correct specialist who instantly recognised the disorder  so prevalent in our girls - a time that changed our lives.~

Looking for support and answers to this dilemma has been successful only abroad, most commonly in the USA. The time differences and medication retail names are completely different. Schools are different, availability of support and hospitals are completely different and nothing we can really relate to. Though it was the only avenue available, we used whatever facility we could find to get some answers and help.   The Americans fortunately have Oprah who brings cognisance and recognition to her viewers on early onset bipolar disorder in children.~

So together, we came to the conclusion that if we are two, in the same town, how many more are out there feeling exactly as we do: hopeless, desperate, tired and isolated.  After some time of supporting each other, we came to the conclusion that if we were so useful to each other, how useful could we also be to other parents?~

This is how the birth of was conceived. It took time, much research and help from many quarters, but we have finally launched. A few crinkles here and there, and making some adjustments, we have had some good feedback in the few days we have been live, and expressions of thanks from people who know someone who knows someone who has a child with bipolar disorder. We are hoping to reach the “someone” who has the bipolar child, as well as all the people who knows someone, or are in any way involved with a bipolar child.  Even the child who has severe ADHD and probably shows the same symptoms as a bipolar child does. ~

Of course, we are relying on local newspapers and media, together with our friends and families, to help us spread the word, that at last, we have a site dedicated to the SOUTH AFRICAN bipolar child. 

We were fortunate enough to find a wonderful doctor (PHD in Psychology), Dr Bruce Bradfield, who kindly agreed to host on our website to address concerns directed to him on the website.  We have also started a Facebook Group page styled Bipolar Kids South Africa, to which we have had an amazing response.




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